CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A day after roaring ashore as a hurricane, Hanna lashed the Texas Gulf Coast on Sunday with high winds and drenching rains that destroyed boats, flooded streets and knocked out power across a region already reeling from a surge in coronavirus cases.
Downgraded to a tropical storm, Hanna passed over the U.S.-Mexico border with winds near 50 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. It unloaded more than 12 inches of rain on parts of South Texas and northeastern Mexico.
Border communities whose health care systems were already strained by COVID-19 cases — with some patients being airlifted to larger cities — found themselves under siege from the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season. There were no immediate reports of any deaths on either side of the border.
Dr. Ivan Melendez, the health authority in Hidalgo County, Texas, was treating a patient overnight at a hospital when he and a nurse noticed water streaming down a wall and pooling on the floor. The water was flowing through a vent in the room, which had been retrofitted with a fan to create negative pressure and prevent the virus spreading through the hospital.
After driving home in the storm in the middle of the night, Melendez was trapped Sunday morning in his home by downed trees and had no electricity. He used the phone to discuss whether to put a 58-year-old woman on a ventilator, a decision he felt uncomfortable making without seeing the patient in person.
“You look at the people’s eyes,” he said. “You’ll know if they’re in despair.”
Another doctor decided to place the woman on the ventilator, he said later.
Henry Van De Putte, CEO of the Red Cross’ Texas Gulf Coast chapter, said the organization would open more shelters with reduced capacity to ensure social distancing. Volunteers and people seeking refuge will undergo temperature checks, and a medical professional will be assigned to each location, he said.
Van De Putte emphasized that people should not delay seeking help because of the virus.
“Yes, coronavirus provides risk, but so does floodwater, so does not having electricity, so does not having required medications,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can do possible to make it a safe environment.”
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved an emergency declaration that will provide federal aid.
Hanna blew ashore as a Category 1 storm late Saturday afternoon with winds of 90 mph not far from Port Mansfield, which is about 130 miles south of Corpus Christi.